Serena Williams Tops Azarenka in Thriller as Nadal, Djokovic Win

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Andy Murray And Nick Kyrgios
Andy Murray of Great Britain shakes hands with Nick Kyrgios of Australia. Photographer: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Women’s top seed Serena Williams was down a set and a break before recovering to beat Victoria Azarenka at Roland Garros.

The American kept her quest for a 20th major title alive by beating the former top-ranked Belarusian, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to move to the fourth round of the French Open in Paris.

“Today wasn’t a simple match,” Williams said in a court-side interview after the match. “Victoria played very well.”

Williams struggled in the opening set, dropping her serve twice on the way to losing in 42 minutes.

At 1-1 in the second set, a third break followed as Azarenka attacked her second serve. Williams looked on the brink of going out of the tournament in her next service game as she was often off-balance on her ground strokes, and found herself at 30-30. After Azarenka made an error, Williams held with a big forehand.

With Azarenka serving for a 5-3 lead, Williams took some pace off her shots. The change of strategy worked, as the Belarusian faced two break points. Williams squandered the first with a netted forehand, only to clinch the break back as her opponent hit a backhand long.

The match turned after that. Williams held the next game and then set up three set points with three backhand winners, all saved by Azarenka.

There was controversy on the fourth set point, when a groundstroke by Azarenka was called out by the line judge, and then overruled by the umpire, who ordered the point to be replayed. Azarenka felt wronged, arguing the call from the line judge had made no difference to Williams’s shot, which landed in the net.

A heated exchange followed between both women, with Azarenka waving her hand at the American before walking back to the baseline. After Williams won the replayed point, forcing a deciding third set, her opponent left the court for a bathroom break as the crowd booed.

Williams dropped serve in the opening game of the decider, before breaking back for 2-2 off a net cord. Williams didn’t apologize, but instead screamed “Come on.” She took a 4-2 lead as she broke again, this time as Azarenka hit a forehand so hard, Williams had to step out of the way on the baseline to avoid being hit.

Serving to stay in the tournament at 5-2 down, Azarenka lost her serve, and the match as Williams thumped a forehand winner.

Murray, Nadal Win

Earlier in the day, Nick Kyrgios ripped a backhand winner while jumping high in the air and struck a winning lob between his legs, yet still ended up losing to Andy Murray.

The Britain proved too much for the 20-year-old Australian, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 on the Court Suzanne Lenglen at Roland Garros to move to the fourth round in Paris. Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic defeated another young Australian, Thanasi Kokkinakis, in straight sets while defending champion Rafael Nadal also won.

He’ll next play France’s Jeremy Chardy, who beat Belgium’s David Goffin in straight sets. Murray leads Chardy 6-1.

The 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon champion, Murray has been the surprise of the clay-court season. He won his first ever clay court event in Munich, then beat nine-time French Open winner Nadal for the first time on the slow surface to take the Madrid Masters title.

Kyrgios, a six-foot-four (1.93 meters) Australian, knocked 14-time major champion Nadal out of the fourth round of Wimbledon last year as world No. 144. Last month in Madrid, he beat Roger Federer in a close three-set match.

His power and athleticism have yet to get the better of Murray, one of the best defenders in the game who has now beaten him three times and kept his record of never losing to Australians.

“He’s a freak athlete,” Kyrgios said in a news conference. “He’s strong. I think that’s how he has his advantage when he plays. He gets to so many balls, mixes up well, great feel and great slice. He can get rhythm on serve and return.”

Kyrgios said he’d been held back by a sore elbow, which has been troubling him for a while.

Djokovic’ Praise

Djokovic beat the 19-year-old Kokkinakis, who three years ago served as the Serb’s hitting partner at the Hopman Cup in Perth, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The teenager was in the third round of a major for the first time after saving three match points in a five-set encounter against countryman Bernard Tomic.

“Tennis needs players like Thanasi, who is a teenager, but still able to come out on center court and play with courage and play with power and believe in himself,” Djokovic said in a news conference. “We didn’t have that many young successful players under 20 years old in last six, seven years, so it’s quite refreshing for tennis.”

Nadal was barely challenged by Andrey Kuznetsov, a Russian ranked 120th, as he won 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 on the Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second show court at Roland Garros.

“The things are going better,” Nadal, who’d struggled on the clay before Paris as he failed to win a single event, said in a court-side interview. “Today, another good match. A very positive feeling, being in the fourth round,” said Nadal, who produced 33 winners and made 25 unforced errors.

Nadal’s next opponent is Jack Sock, the only American man left in the singles draw. The 37th-ranked Sock struck 31 winners, including 19 off his forehand, to beat Croatian teenager Borna Coric, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and move to the last 16 of Roland Garros for the first time.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova opened play on the main Court Philippe Chatrier with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu. She’ll play Timea Bacsinszky next after the Swiss upset the 16th-seeded Madison Keys of the U.S., 6-4, 6-2.

Keys ousted Kvitova in the third round of the Australian Open, where she went on to reach her first major semifinal.

Francesca Schiavone of Italy, the 2010 champion who needed almost four hours to edge former winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in her previous round, lost to Andreea Mitu of Romania, 7-5, 6-4.

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